“Covid-19 crisis has also focused minds, accelerating digital adoption among consumers and digital transformation among companies” – Jan Gildemeister, Managing Director at BCG
2021 Marks for the African continent a year of accelerated recovery and post-Covid change. With an emphasis on digital infrastructure, financial literacy, and green energy, African digital adoption has seen a fast-paced embracement.
FinTech holds a key structural industry to shape the innovational landscape. Unlike other continental markets, the African market focuses on the breakthrough attached to the needs of the population rather than disruption.
Throughout the first quarter, three segments were emphasized:
- Financial Inclusion and Literacy
DEEP DIVE NUMBER 1: NIGERIA
Nigeria takes the lead with arguably the most advanced country on the FinTech side next to South Africa and Kenya. Flutterwave – Nigerian/USA Payment Solution Provider – took the highlight of the season by raising $170m in Series C funding round snatching the Unicorn status [Week 10]. The following week it was announced that Flutterwave partnered with Paypal to allow African merchants to accept and make payments through its Paypal feature.
Staying on the payments side, Afriex – Nigerian Payment and Remittance provider – is another contender to keep on the radar as it has raised $1.2m in seed funding round [Week 12] to accelerate and scale up its payments/remittances products in Africa.
The unbanked and underbanked population with excessive cash use still provides market opportunities for startups and incumbents. That is the case of Bankly – Cash Digitizer – which has raised $2m in seed funding round [Week 12] to focus on the unbanked and “scale-up on consumer acquisition and direct-to-consumer products”.
With Defi being continuously brought on an increasingly popular topic, Xend has taken the leap with first a $2m funding round raise [Week 6] to then launch the first Defi platform for Credit Unions and Cooperatives [Week 12].
AgriTech is on the rise as public and private sectors strive to include small and large farmers in their initiatives. A player worth mentioning in this period is Afex – Private Commodities Exchange Company – which has raised a $50m “Agri-SMEs” fund [Week 7] to bridge the gap between lenders and borrowers.
Other noticeable funding rounds to mention are from:
- Kuda – Nigerian/UK Digital Banking service provider – with a $25m Series A raise [Week 11]. Kuda’s mission is to “provide neobanking services for every African on the planet”.
- Cowrywise – Digital Wealth Management provider – with a $3m Pre-Series A funding round raise [Week 4] to provide additional products and financial planning solutions
- Caracal – InsurTech Startup – has raised $450k in pre-seed funding round [week 13] aiming at enabling insurers to automate and settle claims through the use of Artificial Intelligence.
DEEP DIVE NUMBER 2: SOUTH AFRICA
One would say South Africa has an upper hand over Nigeria as it proclaims to provide an International Hub on FinTech, Innovation, and Energy. From a public sector point of view, the South African Central Bank (the South African Reserve Bank) has taken on the CBDC wave as it has launched a second CBDC trial to then release a consultation paper on the feasibility of a domestic card scheme [Week 11]. Incumbent players are also looking to diversify their product portfolio, taking for example NedBank which launched a new platform “YouthX” to educate the youth on different industries and shape them as future leaders.
In funding rounds, TymerBank – Digital Banking Platform – has taken first place by raising $109m [Week 8] with the expectation to go international and launch in the Philippines. Staying on the digital banking side we have Nomanini which raised $1.5m in funding round [Week 11] to enable “informal merchants and micro-entrepreneurs in emerging markets to distribute digital goods such as airtime and prepared electricity”.
Aside from Banking and Payments, APIs have been integrated also into play to leverage innovation. Stitch – API Startup Provider – has raised a $4m seed funding round [Week 8] to provide “full API access to financial accounts across Africa for developers to connect apps to financial accounts”.
Payment innovations have been an important aspect of the South African ecosystem starting from a significant partnership between Mastercard and MTN to enable global consumer e-commerce payments in 16 countries in Africa [Week 7]. Mama Money – International Payment Services Providers – shows the sector’s importance by announcing a 500% growth during the pandemic [Week 7].
On the AgriTech side, Skudu – an AgriTech startup – has raised funding from Agventure [Week 7] – a leading agri-food Tech investor in Africa – with a focus on becoming a “leading online marketplace for agricultural inputs”.
DEEP DIVE NUMBER 3: KENYA
Already leading the continent with mobile payment initiatives – notably without a doubt M-Pesa as being the largest mobile network operator in the country – Kenya has experienced some interesting funding rounds and innovative solutions around FinTech, Banking, and AgriTech. Finplus – FinTech software provider – has announced that it reached over $503m in combined transaction value in less than four years of operation [Week 6], which only proves the continuous growth of the industry.
Aside from Finplus, other growing startups include Tanda – Digital financial services providers for MSMEs – which has received funds [Week 12] to increase regionally focusing on providing bill payments, bank withdrawals, digital payments, and more. Sticking with the MSME’s market, Asimilia – Digital Payments Startup – has announced its launch of a “digital lender mobile app setting up real transaction management for MSME’s [Week 12]. The gig economy is also targeted starting from ImaliPay, which raised pre-seed funds to launch a platform that focuses on the inclusion of gig economy workers across Africa for digitization growth and smartphone penetration. Another worthy mention comes from Popote – PayTech startup – which raised funding from Greenhouse Capital [Week 5] to scale its payment, expense management, and accounting solutions.
As for funding rounds, the most distinguishable one comes from Gro Intelligence – AI-Powered Insight Company – which raised $85m in Series B funding round [Week 2] to provide analysis on “food, climate, trade, agriculture, and macro-economic conditions”. From an Agritech point of view, Pula – An Agri-InsurTech startup – has raised $6m in Series A funding round [Week 4] to scale up its InsurTech products “to derisk smallholder farmers in Africa”.
DEEP DIVE NUMBER 4: EGYPT
Holding on to its “Vision 2030” to bring balanced sustainable development in the market, Egypt is arguably the most advanced FinTech country in North Africa with numerous funds, startup creation, and government initiatives on supporting the landscape.
The focus of the country relies on three pillars:
- Reshaping Banking Laws
- Reshaping its Regulations
- FinTech Enhancement
A first partnership was already observed in the first week when Temenos – World-Leading Banking Software Solutions based in Geneva – was selected by Arab Investment Bank to drive digital growth and financial inclusion. Another breakthrough comes from Thndr – Investment Platform – which was licensed by Azimut Egypt [Week 8] to “offer a new Egypt-focused fixed-income mutual fund”.
In its first-quarter two (observed) FinTech startups have joined Y-Combinators:
- Dayra – Credit Solution Startups – which raised $3m in pre-seed funding round [Week 10] and focuses on providing its products to gig workers
- NowPay – Financial Wellness Startup – which raised pre-Series A funding [Week 10] as it “enables employers to offer salary advances to their employees through its mobile app”.
FinTech Innovation didn’t stop at only the previously mentioned countries but was also was leveraged in other parts of the continent such as Morocco, Tunisia, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, and Sudan.
AgriTech turned out to be the most targeted market. Starting with OCP S.A – Moroccan State-Owned Phosphate and Fertilizer group – which launched an online service “to link farmers and stakeholders to develop innovative and sustainable agricultural products” [Week 6]. The company then, later on, completed the first Intra-African Blockchain-based transaction worth $400m with the Trade and Development Bank (TBD) [Week 13]. Leaping on to Ghana we find AgroCenta Holding Limited – Digital Food Distribution platform – which has raised $790k in Pre-Series A funding round [Week 5] to develop an “innovative suite of tools to facilitate value-chain connections for stakeholders in the country’s agricultural sector”. In Zimbabwe, we have Farmhut – AI-Powered AgriTech – which has won $100K funding from Hult Prize [Week 10] – to “connect farmers to markets”. Ending it off with MooMe – Tunisian AgriTech startup – which secured funding from Maxula Seed Fund [Week 3] to “create synergies to support cattle breeders”.
Aside from AgriTech, Morocco and Ghana are also starting to shake things up. The most noticeable news in Morocco goes to its central bank “Bank Al Maghrib” which is considering a CBDC scheme after initiating a committee to study its pros and cons [Week 7]. Local and international banks are also partaking in the trend with partnerships and open innovation programs. Sopra Banking Software – French Banking and Financing Platform – has partnered with Al Akhawayn University to establish various educational and growth FinTech programs for the youth [Week 10]. Banque Centrale Populaire – Major Moroccan bank to launch FinTech challenge programs to boost the industry and scale up startups locally [Week 8]. In Ghana, The Bank of Ghana launched a regulatory sandbox [Week 9] to promote women's financial inclusion and innovation with a special focus on Blockchain and RegTech.
Additional Funding Rounds:
- Diool – Cameroonian Digital Payment Provider – has raised $3.5m in funding round [Week 8] to scale up its payment products.
- ArifPay – Ethipioan FinTech Startup – has raised $3.5m in funding round [Week 11] to become the country’s first Mobile Point-of-Scale provider to make electronic payments.
- OZÉ – Ghanaian FinTech Startup – has raised $700k in Seed Funding Round [Week 2] to provide “MSMEs track sales, expenses, and customer satisfaction”.
A First in the country:
- Djamo – Ivory Coast Financial Super-App Startup – became the first Francophone startup from the country to get backing from Y-Combinator [Week 5].
- Faisal Islamic Bank became the first Sudanese bank to get a card issuing and acquiring Mastercard license with backing from Network International [Week 5].
Speaking of Mastercard, the Giant American Payment processor has invested $100m in Airtel Africa – A UK-based telecommunication company [Week 13]. Let’s see how this will shape up the payment sector in the continent.
While Africa has seen a lot of experimental change within the FinTech landscape in general, still are various issues and walls to face in order to close the internal development gap, especially within:
- Property Rights